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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Preliminary Chapter

page 1

Preliminary Chapter.

During the summer of 1860, while travelling down the coast to the Wellington Races, accompanied by Captain Blewett and Dr. Gibson, we were overtaken by a messenger who had been despatched to bring up two companies of the 65th Regiment then stationed there. The Taranaki natives had shown fight by the erection of a strong pah on land of which Governor Gore Brown had given them notice that he was going to take possession. We arrived in Wellington on the day of the embarkation, which a great crowd had assembled to witness. The wives and children of the soldiers had received orders to take leave of the men at the barracks; but one young mother more anxious than the rest had, despite all orders, taken up her station under the wharf, and as the troops commanded by Major Turner passed over, she held up her baby, so that its father by going on his knees could kiss it. The sensation this circumstance caused was indescribable, and the first tears of doubt and anxiety for the fate of those about to engage in the struggle were shed by that young wife. In vain did the clergyman assure her that the troops had only to show themselves and all would be over. Those who knew the Maories best thought otherwise, and the clergyman himself was but too soon con-page 2vinced of his mistake, for the returning steamer brought back the commanding officer (Major Turner) seriously wounded, a ball having entered his mouth and lodged in his neck. Thus began a war which speedily assumed such proportions that the Governor considered it necessary to send to England for assistance, readily and liberally granted, by the British Government. Ten British regiments, with their commissariat, staff and transport corps, were located in the Taranaki and Auckland provinces, the outbreak having been confined principally to those districts up to the summer of 1865, when the disaffected natives, finding the imperial troops more than a match for them in the open country of the Waikato, left that district and joined the Wanganui natives in their bush fastnesses, determined to fight to the bitter end. Their presence was soon revealed by the murder of several of the out-settlers, for whose protection from further violence some of the regiments then located in the Waikato districts received orders to embark for the south.